Monday, July 21, 2014

970. Before We Leave - Stephen Dunn

.
Just so it’s clear—
no whining on the journey.
If you whine, you’ll get stuck
somewhere with people
like yourself. It’s an unwritten law.
Wear hiking boots. Pack food
and a change of clothes.
We go slowly. Endurance won’t
be enough, though without it
you can’t get to the place
where more of you is asked.
Expect there will be times
when you’ll be afraid.
Hold hands and tremble together
if you must but remember
each of you is alone.

Where are we going?
It’s not an issue of here or there.
And if you ever feel you can’t
take another step imagine 
how you might feel to arrive,
if not wiser, a little more aware
how to inhabit the middle ground
between misery and joy.
Trudge on. In the higher regions,
where the footing is unsure,
to trudge is to survive.

Happiness is another journey,
almost over before it starts,
guaranteed to disappoint.
If you’ve come for it, say so,
you’ll get your money back.
I hope you all realize that anytime
is a fine time to laugh. Fake it,
however, and false laughter
will accompany you like a cowbell
for the rest of your days.
You’ll forever lack the seriousness
of a clown. At some point
the rocks will be jagged,
the precipice sheer. That won’t be
the abyss you’ll see looking down.
The abyss, you’ll discover
(if you’ve made it this far),
is usually nearer than that—
at the bottom of something
you’ve yet to resolve,
or posing as your confidante.
Follow me. Don’t follow me. I will
say such things, and mean both.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

969. A Story That Could Be True - William Stafford

.
If you were exchanged in the cradle and
your real mother died
without ever telling the story
then no one knows your name,
and somewhere in the world
your father is lost and needs you
but you are far away.

He can never find
how true you are, how ready.
When the great wind comes
and the robberies of the rain
you stand on the corner shivering.
The people who go by—
you wonder at their calm.

They miss the whisper that runs
any day in your mind,
“Who are you really, wanderer?”—
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:

“Maybe I’m a king.”

Sunday, June 01, 2014

968. Memory - Rilke

Translated by Edward Snow

And you wait, you wait for that one thing
that will infinitely enlarge your life;
that gigantic, the stupendous,
the awakening of stones,
depths turned round toward you.

The volumes bound in rust and gold
flicker dimly on the shelves;
and you think of lands traveled across,
of paintings, of the clothes of
women found and lost.

And then suddenly you know: it was then.
You rise, and before you
stands the fear and prayer and shape
of a vanished year.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

967. "I Love You" - Billy Collins

.
Early on, I noticed that you always say it
to each of your children
as you are getting off the phone with them
just as you never fail to say it
to me whenever we arrive at the end of a call.

It’s all new to this only child
I never heard my parents say it,
at least not on such a regular basis,
nor did it ever occur to me to miss it.
To say I love you pretty much every day

would have seemed strangely obvious,
like saying I’m looking at you
when you are standing there looking at someone.
If my parents had started saying it
a lot, I would have started to worry about them.

O course, I always like hearing it from you.
That is never a cause for concern,
The problem is I now find myself saying it back
if only because just saying good-bye
then hanging up would make me seem discourteous.

But like Bartleby, I would prefer not to
say it so often, would prefer instead to save it
for special occasions, like shouting it out as I leaped
into the red mouth of the volcano
with you standing helplessly on the smoking rim,

or while we are desperately clasping hands
before our plane plunges in the Gulf of Mexico,
which are only two of the examples I had in mind,
But enough, as it turns out, to make me
want to say it to you right now.

and what better place than in the final couplet
of a poem where, as every student know, it really counts.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

966. Sharks' Teeth - Kay Ryan

.
Everything contains some
silence. Noise gets
its zest from the
small shark’s-tooth
shaped fragments
of rest angled
in it. An hour
of city holds maybe
a minute of these
remnants of a time
when silence reigned
compact and dangerous
as a shark. Sometimes
a bit of a tail or fin can still
be sensed in parks.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

965. Request - Lawrence Raab

.
For a long time I was sure
it should be "Jumping Jack Flash," then
the adagio from Schubert's C major Quintet,
but right now I want Oscar Peterson's

"You Look Good to Me." That's my request.
Play it at the end of the service,
after my friends have spoken.
I don't believe I'll be listening in,

but sitting here I'm imaging
you could be feeling what I'd like to feel––
defiance from the Stones, grief
and resignation with Schubert, but now

Peterson and Ray Brown are making
the moment sound like some kind
of release. Sad enough
at first, but doesn't it slide into

tapping you feet, then clapping
your hands, maybe standing up
in that shadowy hall in Paris
in the late sixties when this was recorded,

getting up and dancing
as I would not have done,
and being dead, cannot, but might
wish for you, who would then

understand what a poem––or perhaps only
the making of a poem, just that moment
when it starts, when so much
is still possible––

has allowed me to feel.
Happy to be there. Carried away.

Friday, February 07, 2014

964. You can rely on him - Yehuda Amichi

.
Happiness has no father. No happiness ever
Learns from the one before, and it dies, without heirs.
But sadness has a long tradition,
Passes from eye to eye, from heart to heart.

And what did I learn from my father: to weep full and to laugh loud
And to pray three times a day.
And what did I learn from my mother: to close my lips, collar,
Cupboard, dream and suitcase, and to put everything back
In its place and to pray three times a day.

Now I have recovered from the lesson. The hair of my head
Is cropped like a solder from the Second World War,
Round and round, and my ears not only hold up by skull but the whole sky

Now they say about me: "You can rely on him."
I've come to this! I've sunk this low!
Only those who really love me
Know you cannot.